Eric Roberson – Mr. Nice Guy [Review]

I was first introduced to Erro’s music through his running mates Dwele, Phonte, etc. I bought his album …Left and was impressed with his talent. In 2008 or so, I was able to catch him in concert in DC and I bought the rest of his albums from him right then and there. I haven’t looked back as he’s easily one of my favorite male singers. His ability to tell stories and convey what I’m thinking is uncanny. I’m not sure what to expect from this indie release, nationally distributed (cop it from your local Target, Best Buy, etc.) follow up to Music Fan First, my favorite of his albums. It’s a tall order to beat that one, but I’m sure that Mr. Nice Guy himself has more than one trick up his sleeve.

1. Mr. Nice Guy
Nice guys, this is our jam! I joke with one of my homegirls that if I was more of an asshole, I’d have action. As much as women say they just want a nice guy, they give up the goods (emotionally and physically) to someone that wouldn’t remember their name if it wasn’t for the sex. I think it’s cool if that’s what you’re on, but stop acting like it’s not. As Erro says in this song “Mr. Nice Guy, yeah last to be thought about, first one she’s turnin’ down” is more than a well written hook. The musical arrangement on this one has a bit of that DMV influence with the horns and bounce driven drums. There’s nothing I don’t like about this song and it’s a strong way to kick off the album.

2. Strangers
One of the things I learned to appreciate about Erro early was his ability to simply write the truth. Strangers is another head not influenced track that happily details the path of the typical relationship as it transitions from strangers – friends – lovers – strangers all over again; Simple but true and relatable. I can go through almost each relationship I’ve had and follow that same Bell curve.

3. Summertime Anthem
Featuring Chubb Rock
This song was a huge hit for him as the lead single. The initial plan was for this album to come out earlier and this would have fit in perfect, but as it stands on a November release, it seems a bit out of place. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a dope dance song and definite summer jam. You can check the video out here. Shout out to all the backwards skaters!

4. Come With Me
Featuring The Ones “Yaw And Khari Lemuel
Four songs in and the ushering of your feet to the dance floor hasn’t relented yet. I’m enjoying how this album is arranged thus far even with the previous song. While I may not think it fits, it’s definitely put in the best possible flow for the album. The harmonies with Eric and The Ones over this distant relative of house music sounds great. It has infectious energy and enthusiasm and is just a great feel good track.

5. Picture Perfect
Featuring Phonte
We all heard this joint when I posted it here. The feedback was positive and there is good reason for that, it’s a good song. I have to give props to the arrangement once again as even though this song is noticeably slower than the previous joints, the drum work  helps avoid that dreaded abrupt transition from uptempo to slow or mid tempo that sometimes kills the flow of albums. Be sure to listen to the ending of this song where Eric goes into his legendary song deconstruction and freestyle approach.

6. Fall
One of the things that I give Eric a pass for is when he uses his voice to sing in off-melody patterns, something that I’m pretty openly against. Sure it works at times, but more times than not, it grinds my gears. I guess I shouldn’t say I give him a pass, he just does this better than anyone I can think of. He uses his voice to create it’s own niche in the song instead of following the music in the typical style. When you add in more go-go influence this song once again prohibits you from sitting still.

7. Shake Her Hand
In the pantheon of songs like “Borrow You” and “Tale of Two”, “Shake Her Hand” is his latest foray into the complications of external attraction while in the confines of a relationship. Women, for whatever reason, seem to believe that once you get into a relationship, you become blind and a eunuch. Eric routinely talks about temptation and various approaches to dealing with that situation.

I got a girl at home
I can’t afford to just carry on
A wise man once told me when you’re facin this
just shake her hand, and walk away

8. The Magician
This is a pretty cool concept song that may seem to toe the line of corny on initial listen. The song is structured around the idea of The Great Roberdini who has managed to make his ladies’ spark vanish. He no longer can guide her emotions and vision with tricks and illusions, she see’s him and knows him now. Quite frankly, the magic is gone. There is a simple brilliance about this song from lyrics to music as it’s produced to lead you along and ultimately engross you into the tale. This maybe one of my favorite Eric Roberson songs ever.

9. Love’s Withdrawal
Featuring Omari Hardwick
This is vintage Roberson. It was songs like this that made me first notice who he was and appreciate his musical ear and writing talent. This song details the often confusing lines of friends with benefits and lovers scared of commitment. At what point does it go from lust to love and is that a good or bad thing?

10. How Would I Feel
Featuring Jean Baylor
I gotta be transparent here…I’ve been this dude. “How Would I Feel” asks the question of how would you feel if she snooped in on your emails and phone texts…like you did her. I did this years ago in a previous relationship, I’ve never done it again and never will. There are only two outcomes when you go snoopin’, you find something (real or imaginary) and get pissed or you end up feeling stupid because there is nothing there. Some will pretend to be relieved, but that only lasts temporary as you will probably keep snooping until you find something that justifies your sneaky ways. In my case, I found something…and it didn’t change anything. I let her know I was snooping, and I stayed with her. She later still acted on her confessions in that diary so at the end of the day, it wasn’t worth it for me to go through all that. This is an instant favorite for me.

11. Talking Reckless

I woulda left my tell at home
If I would have known that you would be here
we’re both here with someone new
and they have no clue how I had you dear.

I hate Eric Roberson. I’ve lived this story too (don’t judge me) and it’s such an odd feeling. When you’re in a space with someone that you’ve known intimately while seeing someone there that you’ve also known intimately. How do you act? Those off glances and smiles thinking about flashbacks and trying to conceal the envy, attraction, and feeling that you have a secret that her new man doesn’t know. I’ve also seen this in retrospect and I was the unsuspecting mark in that situation. Another thing about this track musically is that it seems to have some influence or remind me of “Georgy Porgy” which serves as a quiet backstory two the two familiar parties.

12. At The Same Time
At this point, I think Eric is stalking my life or I’ve been living that movie EDtv. I’ve also been in a relationship where it was only after my heart was broken (queue violins) and the relationship was over that the woman decided that she was (back) in love with me. That train had long left the station and this is musical about that situation, almost to the letter. I love the musical arrangement on this song as well, with it’s classic R&B flavor and Quincy Jones vibe. If you had a choice of who you loved, would it be the same person it is now? Would you choose to be in a lopsided relationship because you think that person will eventually come around or are you compelled, by love, to just stay the course?

13. Male Ego
Featuring Hezekiah
The running joke is that women look for marriage and relationships and men submit. I can’t argue much with that generally speaking. It’s not about the feeling of missing out on other things as much as it is the guys instinct to date/conquer (if you will) women. Guys know that settling down means that you are responsible for someone’s feelings and ultimately, you’re going to be faced with those tears that you caused, and no man enjoys that. It’s a constant struggle of responsibility and ego that we men deal with, ladies, don’t take it personal.

14. Try Love
This song feels like a new years anthem or some other holiday sort of setting, probably due to the royal horns on the track. Simply stated, the son is about celebrating Love. “Show love, give love, try love, even if the one you love is yourself.” I can dig this song, even the way he sounds like R.Kelly at the end (is that R.Kelly?)

15. All For Me
Like I said in the intro, I have all of his CD’s and none of them (this is without looking, so don’t quote me) have him singing a flat out hymn. This is nothing but gospel. It’s lyrically Eric Roberson’s take on the popular poem “Footsteps in the Sand.” What a truly heartfelt and inspiring song to end the album.


Bottom Line:
My own bias aside (score may reflect that, I’m human) this is an amazing album and is close or even tied with Music Fan First for best Eric Roberson album  to date. Mr. Nice Guy is a well crafted examination of the often oversimplified stereotype that is being a man. We are often complex and even when it seems that we’re all alike and simple, there is much more to our thoughts than what is publicized. If I’m ever fortunate (?) enough to have a movie made about my life, this album will be the soundtrack.


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